September 17, 2006

Let me be your doormat

Warning: Slight spoiler ahead if you haven't seen the movie The Last Kiss.

Often after a night at the movies, I end up analyzing how unhealthy Hollywood's version of a romantic relationship is. I especially hate the idea that a woman needs a man to "be complete," as if no woman could ever be a whole person on her own.

The movie we saw last night, The Last Kiss, avoided many of the romantic conventions that I so detest. It was certainly more realistic than the cheesy movie with a happy ending that usually falls into the romantic comedy genre. The characters seemed like real people, with real life problems – and completely dysfunctional ways of handling them. And they certainly did avoid the happy ending.

In the end, the main character, who has spent most of the movie sabotaging the relationship he is in, ends up lying for days on the doorstep of the woman he says he loves. She walks over him as she leaves for work, refusing even to talk to him. At one point, she takes pity on him and throws him a sandwich before storming past. When he shivers in the cold, she tosses him a blanket, which he clutches gratefully. The character is played by Zach Braff, and even though he's been a moody, immature jerk for most of the movie, he is still somehow likeable enough that he gets our sympathy. He lies pitifully on the front porch, a broken man, while the woman steps over him again and again.

I am not sure what to make of a romantic comedy in which the main character is counseled by an older male therapist to "do whatever it takes" to get his woman back and who becomes literally a doormat.

If that is a metaphor for relationships in our times, I would say that these are pretty dark times. A realistic movie, perhaps, but certainly a depressing one.


BrightStar said...

Good call about the doormat bit. I can't believe that metaphor slipped past my notice. Once you pointed it out, it's hard NOT to notice that message.

What did you think about Blythe Danner's character? I thought the character helped the women in the story have some complexity. Without her, the story would have been off-balance with respect to gender, I though.

jo(e) said...

I think the Blythe Danner character (she is the older woman, right?) could have given the movie some depth, but really didn't. I mean, it seems like she is going to make some dramatic realization and get all empowered and shit, but mainly -- she gets fed up with a sarcastic husband who ignores her, she threatens to leave a relationship in which she has been unhappy for years and years, and then .... it stalls out. Her first move is to run to some other guy, who seems to be kind of a jerk. And her second move is to simply return to the marriage, even though nothing has changed?

I guess the movie was realistic -- in real life, people do that kind of thing, but I was hoping that some of the characters would show some growth and change, but none of them really did.

jo(e) said...

As far as the movie being off-balance with respect to gender, well, we see most of the movie through the eyes of the 29-year-old men. One is married to a very controlling woman and sees divorce as his only option. Another is in a relationship with a woman he thinks is a sex goddess, but who turns out to be another woman trying to manipulate him into a commitment, and so he takes off on a road trip. And the main character ends up being a door mat.

None of the women are developed very fully. They come off as stereotypes to me: the controlling bitch who makes her husband miserable, the resentful domestic wife, the evil seductress, the woman who uses sex to get what she wants, and the wholesome clueless woman who deserves some kind of special sympathy because she is pregnant.

Have I mentioned how depressing the film is?

prairie mary said...

Who raised these immature uneducated men? Couldn't have been women! Don't these men have parents?

Prairie Mary

Sunday's Child said...

Have you seen "Rumor Has It?" The movie raises all kinds of relationship issues, but Jennifer Aniston has a great line in which she tells a guy, "I didn't come here to tell you I can't live without you--because I can. I just don't want to."


BrightStar said...

Thanks for your responses to my questions, jo(e). (Yes, Blythe Danner actress who played the mom.)

There were A LOT of characters in the movie and not a lot of time to develop them.

I felt awful for the young girl in the movie... used and left behind.

jo(e) said...

Brightstar: I felt sorry for just about all the characters at the end. I mean, none of them got a happy ending, did they? The movie was pretty realistic -- almost every character reminded me of someone I know in real life -- but it sure was depressing.

Yeah, you are right that there wasn't much time to develop any of the characters. The interwoven plots helped make the movie interesting, but having so many characters and so little time ended up making it pretty shallow. The male characters were stereotyped too.

jo(e) said...

Sunday's Child: I haven't seen the movie, but I love that quote.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Aieee. I haven't seen the movie either, but how depressing. May we all live long enough to heal enough to have real meaningful if difficult relationships.

YourFireAnt said...

As far as doing "whatever is necessary to get her back.." well, that might make sense. But do you really think that "what was necessary" was the doormat thing? Would YOU want a guy to do that in order to win you back?

I wonder what he did all day while she was at work. I mean, he must've had to take pee breaks, for example.


jo(e) said...

I sensed that as moviegoers, we were supposed to approve of the character doing "whatever it takes" to get the woman back, but like most dramatic and romantic movie ideas, I think it's a bad one.

I agree with you, FireAnt. Who would want to be in a relationship with a doormat?

Professor Zero said...

I just taught La Celestina (1499), which ironizes romantic love while, at the same time, being cyber-stalked by an obsessed ex.

It was really interesting to see the similarities in language between the text I was teaching and the e-mails and blog comments I was receiving...and, most shockingly of all, some of the responses I saw myself having. Conditioned ones, to be sure, but I would have thought them natural, if not rational, had I not been teaching a text which ironized them at the same time.